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Robert Antoine Pinchon, the Unknown French Impressionism Painter

Rouen born Robert Antoine Pinchon ( 1886 -1943) was a 19th century impressionism painter. He was extremely talented and highly respected by his peers. Pinchon exhibited his paintings together with many of the the great impressionism and post-impressionism masters.

Robert Antoine Pinchon was also a successful artist in his lifetime. However, after he died, his beautiful paintings and his contributions to the impressionism art movement fell into obscurity. Those who wrote the impressionism history art books , somehow omitted this amazing artist from their narrative.

Read his story and check out his beautiful art. You will also be asking the same question. Why do we not hear more about Robert Antoine Pinchon?

Robert Pinchon Painting 1904 of the River Seine in
Robert Pinchon Painting 1904

Robert Antoine Pinchon Demonstrates Artistic Talent in His Early Years

As a young boy, Robert Antoine Pinchon’s artistic talent and interest was noticable. His father, also Robert, was a Rouen intellectual, writer and a sensitive man. He encouraged his son’s artistic creativity.

Already at the age of 14 years, one of Pinchon’s paintings was hung in the storefront of a camera supply shop window. This shop just happened to be across the road from L’Hotel du Dauphin at d’Espagne.

By chance, Monet, Gauguin, Degas and other artistic luminaries were exhibiting paintings in this hotel. The art critc, Georges Dubosc , on his way to the exhibition, saw Pinchon’s painting and loved it. He decided to review Pinchon’s amazing painting instead!

Le Talus de chemin de fer -  Robert Antoine Pinchon
Le Talus de chemin de fer, 1912 – Robert Antoine Pinchon

17 Year Old Pinchon Grabs the Attention of the Art World!

At the age of 17, Pinchon was now a full time art student at the École des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.  In this same year, he exhibited at the Rouen Fine Arts Exhibition together with other artists such as Charles Frechon, Blanche Hoschedé-Monet and Claude Monet.

It was in this exhibition when Monet exhibited his now famous Rouen Cathedral paintings for the first time. François Depeaux, the impressionist art collector, came to the exhibition and noticed Pinchon’s paintings. He not only bought several of Pinchon’s paintings but took charge of Pinchon’s artistic career.

The Outskirts of Rouen Under Snow -  Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting
The Outskirts of Rouen Under Snow – Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting

Pinchon’s Instant Love Affair with the Fauves!

From this point on, Robert Antoine Pinchon, was regularly participating in exhibitions not only in Rouen but also in Paris. When he went to Paris, he saw the bold, colorful artworks on the Fauvism painters. The art world considered the Fauvist paintings outrageous. In fact one art critic described their artworks as “the barbaric and naïve games of a child who plays with a box of colors“.

Pinchon thought differently. Heloved their use of bold colors. In fact, the Fauves made a long lasting impression on Pinchon. They embolded him, giving him the encouragement to move away from the natural colors of the impresionists & instead use bold and bright colors without restraint.

Robert Antoine Pinchon painting of the Seine -  Fauvism Art
Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting of the Seine – Fauvism Art

In the next few years, Pinchon is busy painting, exhibiting and establishing himself in the art world. His artworks now resemble the style of the post-impressionists and fauvists. He exhibits with other post-impressionists such as Luce, Utrillo, Guillaumin, Dufy, Vlaminck & others.

Robert Antoine Pinchon – The Wonder Boy

Pinchon had his first solo exhibition in Paris in 1909, with thirty paintings listed in the catalogue. The exhibition was a huge success. Art collectors loved his paintings and the press wrote about him with praise. This resulted with a show after show. Later that year, he exhibited with the impressionists such as Monet, Sisley, Guillaumin , Renoir, & Lebourg in an art exhibition in Rouen. He was still considered part of the impressionism group.

A Water Lilies Pond -  Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting
A Water Lilies Pond – Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting

Not only was Pinchon painting and exhibiting, he was also one of the founders of ‘Société Normande de Peinture Moderne. This group was made up of free-thinking painters, sculptors, writers, poets and musicians in Rouen.

They attracted so many brilliant minds into this group such as, Raoul Dufy, Georges BraqueHenri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, Albert Marquet,  Maurice Utrillo, Othon Friesz and others.

It was indeed a very exciting time for Robert Antoine Pinchon. The world was developing fast and with it, Pinchon and the art world!

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The Dark Years – WW1

1914 signaled the beginning of World War One. 28 years old Pinchon together with millions of others, was called up immediately to fight in the war.

Pinchon was wounded in his right leg, patched up and then sent back to fight. Again he was wounded, recovered and sent back to the front lines. After a failed offensive assult, Pinchon was caught by the Germans and taken as a prisoner of war for around two years.

While in captivity, fellow artists organized in Paris an exhibition dedicated to artists who either died in battle, were prisoners of war or still fighting. One of Pinchon’s paintings was exhibited here.

Somehow Pinchon manages to escape captivity and makes his way back home in December 1918.  However, 30 year old Pinchon came home a damaged man. He felt disillusioned with the world and bitter with the loss of so many lives. He also felt that the war destroyed his career.

Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting
Robert Antoine Pinchon Painting

Slowly Picking Up the Pieces

Slowly, slowly Pinchon was finding his way. In Rouen, surrounded by lush and peaceful countryside, Pinchon was recovering both emotionally and physically. He returned to painting his beloved Normandy. Pinchon set up his easel outdoors and painted the Normandy rolling landscapes en plein air. His paintings now send a message of the celebration of life, nature and humanity.

Robert Antoine Pinchon painting of Rouen, River Seine from the Heights of Caundebec
Rouen, the Seine, View from the Heights of Caudebec by Robert Antoine Pinchon

A Successful Artist

For the rest of his life, Robert Antoine Pinchon continued to paint as both an impressionist and fauvist. He earned a considerable reputation in the art world and amongst his peers. Pinchon participated in regular exhibitions both in Rouen and in Paris. In 1925, Pinchon became vice president of the 16th Salon de la Société des Artistes Rouennais et de Normandie.

Pinchon married Elise in 1921 and they had a son together, Claude. But his life ended way too short. On the 3rd of January 1943, at the young age of 56, Pinchon died in Bois-Guillaume, a small town near Rouen, Normandy.

A lovely collection of Robert Antoine Pinchon’s artworks are on display at Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen.

There are other French impressionists who were extremely talented and somehow forgotten. See the articles to read about them and to check out their art.